Local high school athletes take on gold medal winning U.S. paralympic team

Posted at 11:05 PM, Jun 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-14 00:05:08-04

On Tuesday night, some of our state's best high school basketball players matched-up against some of the world's best wheelchair basketball players, who taught them the strength of overcoming adversity.

Nate Hinze of Sheboygan County was diagnosed and treated for bone cancer when he was 16.

"After the chemo and surgeries, I had lost my ability to run and jump," Hinze said. "I thought sports were taken away from me forever. That was really hard."

Jake Williams of Milwaukee, knows the feeling. At 16, he was hit by a car while riding his bike, and suffered a spinal cord injury.

"The physical pain I felt after the accident and then through physical therapy was by far the worst physical pain I've ever experienced," Williams said. "But it was nothing compared to the emotional pain. I didn't want to leave my house. I didn't know what to do."

Both of them credit wheelchair basketball with turning the bad into good.

"It was the number one thing that helped me get out of my negative mindset," Williams said. "It was hard. It took a lot of practice. But meeting other kids my age, in better and worse situations, and going through the same things as me, was key."

"As soon as I started playing, I was addicted," Hinze said. "I worked really hard at it, and was fortunate enough to make a couple U.S.A. teams. It sounds funny, but I'm very grateful for the hardship I had, because it really opened up a lot of doors for me in my life."

Together, Hinze and Williams won gold at the Paralympic Games in Rio last summer.

"It was such an amazing experience," Williams said.

"It definitely creates a brotherhood and a bond, when you're traveling around the world representing your country, playing a sport that you love," Hinze said.

On Tuesday night, they taught some of Wisconsin's top high school basketball players what it's like to play in a wheelchair. Needless to say, it's not easy.

"They kicked our butts," said Alex Setzer, who was a star basketball player at Brookfield Academy, and is now headed to play at Carroll University. "It's not every day you get to play with people who won a gold medal."

For them, the lesson was about so much more than basketball.

"To see all they've overcome," Setzer said. "It's taken them a lot of work, and a lot of time to get as good as they are. We're all able to use our legs to full advantage - but these guys use more of their heart to fight out there."

Each high-school basketball "All Star" had to raise $500 for the MACC Fund to fight childhood cancer.